Recent News from Engadget

NASA’s Nicole Aunapu Mann will be the first Native American woman to visit space

NASA is breaking new ground for astronauts. As Indian Country Todayreports, the agency recently confirmed that Marine Corps Col. Nicole Aunapu Mann will be the first Native American woman to travel to space. The Wailacki tribe member will serve as the mission commander for the SpaceX-powered Crew-5 mission heading to the International Space Station as soon as September 29th. When she arrives, Mann will be ISS Expedition 68’s flight engineer during a six-month stay.

The Crew-5 mission will also ferry NASA’s Josh Cassada, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and Russia’s Anna Kikina to the ISS. Chickasaw Nation member John Herrington was the first Native American of any gender to visit space, flying aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2002.

Mann has a background well-suited to spaceflight. She started her career as a Navy aviator and has flown the F/A-18 Hornet while supporting missions operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. She also earned her master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford. NASA chose Mann as one of eight astronaut candidates in 2013. That group has since become influential, producing influential figures like Anne McClain, Jessica Meir and Crew Dragon pilot Victor Glover. Some of them, including Mann, have made NASA’s shortlist for the first crewed Artemis missions to the Moon.

For Mann, this first spaceflight isn’t just historic. In her interview with ICT, she saw the trip as smashing “barriers” for Native American children who didn’t think they could become astronauts. It won’t be surprising if more follow her before long.

Janet Jackson’s 1989 mega-hit ‘Rhythm Nation’ sonically smashes old hard drives

The “brown noise” is a legendary tone purportedly capable of causing people to lose control of their bowels when subjected to its gut-punching harmonic resonance. South Park did a whole thing on it. Turns out that the 5400 RPM hard drives from a number of old Windows-era laptops possess a brown note of their own: Janet Jackson’s 1989 mega-hit ‘Rhythm Nation.’

According to Microsoft Software Engineer, Raymond Chen, who recounted the tale in a Microsoft Developers Blog post earlier this week, “a major computer manufacturer discovered” that playing the music video (above) would not only crash the hard drive of the laptop it was running on but also any other similar model within earshot.

The Mitre Corporation was not amused by this newfound vulnerability, issuing it an entry in the CVE database. After a thorough investigation, the device manufacturer confirmed that the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies of the hard drives playing the song essentially rattled the devices apart. Rather than recall untold numbers of decades-old drives, the manufacturer instead opted to develop a workaround by “adding a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playback,” according to Chen. 

HBO Max is removing 36 shows ahead of Discovery+ merger

The union of HBO Max and Discovery+ is already causing pain through layoffs, and now the move is affecting some shows. Warner Bros. Discovery has confirmed to Variety that it’s removing 36 titles from HBO Max as soon as this week while it prepares for the Discovery+ platform merger. Most of the productions aren’t huge, but they do include recognizable HBO work like the Sesame Street spinoff The Not-too-Late-Show with Elmo and the Peter Dinklage movie My Dinner with Hervé. A handful of Cartoon Network shows are leaving. 

In a statement, HBO Max said content would disappear from both services as it worked to bring the media libraries “together under one platform.” The provider didn’t elaborate on its reasoning, although Variety noted that pulling the shows outright (instead of canceling future seasons) would help HBO Max avoid paying more royalties. Warner Bros. Discovery said it would find $3 billion in savings as part of the corporate merger.

As you might imagine, at least some affected producers aren’t happy — this not only cuts off income, but might prevent people from seeing their work unless it finds another home. Summer Camp Island creator Julia Pott noted that some episodes developed during the pandemic will never see the light of day. Warner Bros. Discovery has “no respect for artists,” she said.

The combination of HBO Max and Discovery+ is expected to launch in summer 2023. While it’s not clear if Warner Bros. Discovery will drop more shows or otherwise slash costs, this latest move won’t be reassuring if you were hoping your favorite series would make the leap to the unified service.

‘Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed’ hits PC, PlayStation and Xbox on October 18th

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, a four vs. one multiplayer game, will arrive in the midst of spooky season. The game will hit the Epic Games Store, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S on October 18th.

You can either play as a ghost or one of four Ghostbusters trying to hunt it down with the help of gadgets like the PKE Meter, Particle Thrower and Ghost Trap. The ghost can slime and stun the humans, teleport between rifts and possess objects.

There’s full multiplayer support across all platforms, though you’ll need a PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold membership to play online on PlayStation or Xbox. If you’d rather play solo as either a ghost or Ghostbuster, AI bots can fill out the other four slots.

Preorders are now open for Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, which is from Predator: Hunting Grounds studio Illfonic. If you lock in a digital preorder, you’ll get advance access to a custom Particle Thrower and Proton Pack, Slimer and special clothing colorways.

Dozens of Facebook contractors lost their jobs after an algorithm reportedly chose them ‘at random’

A firm contracted by Meta recently told dozens of its workers that their work for Facebook “was soon being taken away,” according to a new report from Insider. The cuts affect about 60 employees of Accenture, a firm that oversees teams of Facebook mode…

Apple Podcasts’ new charts help you find the top paid shows

Apple Podcasts has offered paid subscriptions for a while, but how are you supposed to find shows worth a monthly outlay? You now have some help. Apple has introduced charts for both the top 100 subscriber shows and top 100 subscriber channels, making it clearer which shows and providers are interesting enough for people to spend their hard-earned money.

Both new charts are available through the Podcasts app in the US, UK, Australia and Canada. You’ll need at least iOS 15.6, iPadOS 15.6 or macOS 12.5. They’re available through both the Browse tab and the Charts page, and are refreshed multiple times per day.

There’s a clear frontrunner in the inaugural charts. As of this writing, Amazon’s Wondery is dominating the show and channel rankings with podcasts like Morbid and SmartLess. Recognizable rivals like Luminary (Black Star’s No Fear of Time) and Pushkin (Malcolm Gladwell’s Go and See) are also present on the channel list.

There’s no mystery behind the strategy. Apple is clearly hoping you’ll sign up for subscriptions and support your favorite series while giving the iPhone maker a cut of the fees. Nonetheless, this might be helpful if you’re looking for ad-free shows and otherwise crave paid perks.

HBO Max is offering a 30 percent discount on its annual plans

HBO Max is looking to beef up its subscriber numbers with a solid discount on the annual plan. You can save 30 percent if you sign up for a year (or over 40 percent compared with a monthly plan). If you don’t mind dealing with ads, the service will cost $70 for 12 months, down from the usual $100. If you prefer not to see ads on HBO Max, you can pay $105, which is $45 off the regular price.

Buy an HBO Max annual subscription – $70 or $105

The offer is available through October 30th and it only applies to the first year of a subscription. A monthly plan costs $10 with ads and $15 without for a total of $120 or $180 per year. So, you can save quite a bit if you’re willing to commit to a one-year membership.

HBO Max is introducing the offer just days before the Game of Thrones spin-off show House of the Dragon premieres. You’ll also be able to stream the original show in 4K HDR.

In the past, we held up HBO Max as one of the best streaming services around, in large part thanks to its extensive content library. However, executives at newly merged parent Warner Bros. Discovery have been culling content and canceling high-profile original movies as part of a major cost-cutting drive. Meanwhile, HBO Max and Discovery+ will merge into a single streaming service next year.

Snap reportedly gives up on its selfie drone just four months after its debut

It’s been less than four months since Snap unveiled a selfie drone called Pixy, but it seems the company is already giving up on the device. CEO Evan Spiegel told employees that Snap is halting further work on Pixy amid a reprioritization of resources, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The $250 drone can take off from and land in your hand. It has four preset flight paths and can capture photos and videos that you can transfer to and share on Snapchat. For now, at least, Pixy is still available to buy from Snap’s website. The Journal suggests Snap will keep selling Pixy for the time being. Engadget has asked Snap for comment.

Like many other companies, Snap has been feeling the brunt of a broader economic slowdown. In July, it posted its weakest quarterly sales growth to date, which sunk its share price by around 40 percent. Snap’s stock has fallen by around 80 percent over the last year. The company also said last month that it would significantly slow down hiring.

Several major tech companies have been shifting priorities in recent months. Meta, for instance, reportedly shelved plans for a smartwatch with two cameras and it’s said to be refocusing Portal devices as enterprise products. Others have slowed downhiring plans and laidoffemployees.

‘Diablo IV’ won’t include pay-to-win microtransactions

Blizzard has published a long-awaited update on its monetization plans for Diablo IV. The short version of the blog post is that Diablo IV will be a full-priced title with an in-game shop and optional seasonal passes. However, the only way to make your…

Streaming viewership surpasses cable TV for the first time in the US

It was seemingly just a matter of time before streaming overtook at least one form of conventional TV, and now that moment has arrived. Nielsen data indicates that streaming TV viewership in the US surpassed cable for the first time this July. About 34…